I’ve never been able to determine what was the name of the village where my grandmother’s house is. Although a large part of my childhood is informed by my hometown, Kota Bharu, the official name of my kampung eludes my knowledge. I know it as Kampung Kubur Kuda. I loved that name because it furnished my childhood fantasy of one of the Sultan’s favourite horses dying at the heart of the village. The primary school built right behind my grandmother’s house, however, was named Sekolah Kebangsaan Kebun Sireh. When my mother met a lady batik seller at the Buluh Kubu Bazaar, she described it as Kampung Kebun Sireh bawah lembah. Due to my bad sense of direction I have, however, learned to describe to my fellow Kelantanese friends that the village, whatever it’s name is, is the one that abuts Jalan Hamzah, near the Sultan of Kelantan’s official palace.
Since 2004, I have been able to add another ambiguous description of where it is located. A grand mall has been erected about five minutes’ walk from my grandmother’s house. I remember the sense of disorientation I experienced upon looking out of my grandmother’s wooden atap house and seeing the massive concrete face of the mall building. The transition from the wooden window frame, across the bushes and coconut trees and the village cemetery to the sterile, facile construction was almost rude.
My impression of my kampung as an island of wooden houses amidst a sea of bitumen is now complete. The town of Kota Bharu, in it’s slow, languid growth, had completely surrounded my kampung on all sides. A ten minute walk from my grandmother’s house brings me to either one of the major city roads leading to the town centre. After being away for two years, I had not grown physically but somehow my grandmother’s house and, by association my kampung felt somewhat walled in by the presence of these modern constructs.